Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Man United- who will miss out on top four?
The 2018/19 Premier League title race went down to the wire, with Manchester City beating Liverpool to the crown by just a point. The team that followed them were Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United respectively.
The new season is just two games old and Liverpool and Arsenal are the only teams to have enjoyed a 100% record thus far, after Manchester United dropped points in the 1-1 draw with Wolves at Molineux on Monday.
We saw an entertaining battle between Manchester City and Tottenham end in a 2-2 draw at the Etihad last weekend, with VAR’s intervention denying the champions a late winner. These are early days but the Premier League table is shaping up very well.
Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal have comprised the table’s top six in each of the previous three seasons.
Considering City and Liverpool are set to battle it out again for the Premier League title, which two teams amongst Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United will make it to the top four this time? Let’s have a look.
Just two games into the new season, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is already under pressure to find some tactical answers as he is still seeking his first Premier League victory.
After the opening day mauling at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford, Chelsea’s performances improved in the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool and the 1-1 draw with Leicester City at the weekend, although Lampard’s men were lucky to escape with a point.
The Blues’ transfer window embargo meant Lampard couldn’t strengthen his squad in the summer. The 41-year-old had to be content with the squad set up by Maurizio Sarri but without Eden Hazard, who joined Real Madrid.
Hazard contributed directly to half of Chelsea’s league goals last season, and their attack was almost totally reliant on him. The Belgian’s departure has left a huge void and that coupled with the exits of experienced defenders Gary Cahill and David Luiz, Lampard’s Chelsea are set for a long season.
Prediction: There have been more negatives than positives in Chelsea’s first two league games and while Lampard will take time to give his side a fixed style of play, it’s difficult to see the Blues making it to the top four.
Against all odds, Tottenham reached the Champions League final last season only to fail at the final hurdle. A combination of their European exploits and a failure to make new signings saw their Premier League form suffer.
However, Spurs spent heavily this summer, signing players like Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon.
Pochettino’s side have started the new campaign well, taking four points out of a possible six. Despite the departures of Kieran Trippier, Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen, Tottenham have been boosted by their new signings and can better last season’s finish.
Prediction: If Pochettino can keep Harry Kane fit throughout the season and get the best out of his new signings, Tottenham can threaten to make it a three-horse title race this time around.
There is a real buzz at Arsenal because of the arrival of new faces at the Emirates and the rollicking start they have made to the new campaign.
Victories over Newcastle and Burnley means that the Gunners have enjoyed a perfect start, although a trip to Liverpool beckons at the weekend. Considering their recent visits to Anfield, it could be all doom and gloom for the North London giants.
Nevertheless, Unai Emery will be happy with the start and would expect things to get better. On loan from Real Madrid, Dani Ceballos made quite an impact on his full debut against Burnley, while the fans also saw glimpses of quality from star man, Nicolas Pepe.
But the Gunners still look defensively shaky and that was visible in the game against Burnley.
David Luiz’s acquisition from Chelsea on the transfer deadline day was a coup but his track-record of clumsy and erratic defending will hardly fill Bernd Leno with confidence.
Then there is the error-prone Shkodran Mustafi, an ageing Sokratis Papastathopoulos and a not-yet-fit Rob Holding in central defence.
Prediction: While Pepe has given a different threat and dynamism to the Arsenal attack, Emery’s defence could again plot his downfall. They’ll miss Aaron Ramsey’s midfield vigour and big-game performances. Frankly, the Gunners won’t make it to the top four this season.
Despite a frustrating transfer window, Manchester United brought three new players in Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire. And all three of the new signings have made an impact in the first two weeks of the new season, helping the Red Devils bag four points out of a possible six.
Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, Manchester United have only made the Premier League top-four twice. This shows just how far they’ve fallen from grace.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to bring the glory days back at Old Trafford by promoting young players and playing relentless attacking football.
United were defensively shambolic last season and Solskjaer strengthened his backline with the additions of Maguire and Wan-Bissaka. They lacked natural width as well and Solskjaer addressed it by bringing in the explosive Daniel James, who is also direct in his style of play.
The United boss has let go of Romelu Lukaku to Inter but didn’t sign a replacement. This seems like a plan to promote academy starlet Mason Greenwood.
Prediction: Going by the first two games, the Red Devils look more composed and secure at the back. Solskjaer’s army looks weak in the midfield and an injury to either Paul Pogba or any central midfielder could see them sweat.
Genuinely, though, the players seem sharper and fit, attacking with pace and hitting opponents on the counter. Despite some obvious weaknesses, the Red Devils’ immediate objective of steady improvement and a return to the top four seems possible.